Let’s make some minicomics

January 30, 2018 6:57 am Published by

Remember those Bottle World minicomics we handed out at Radcon and Furlandia, as well as posted here on Azdion? They were good conversation starters, a brief look at Bottle World as a setting, and a thing people were excited to take – unlike business cards and fliers, which usually get thrown out as junk.

If you have a short story and you want to show it to people, a minicomic can be a great way to do it. And best of all, they aren’t actually very hard to make.

What you’ll need

  • minicomic (we’ll get to this in a moment)
  • decent black and white laser printer with enough toner
  • regular paper and cardstock
  • paper cutter, or sharp scissors and a steady hand
  • stapler large enough to reach halfway across a piece of paper, and staples
  • optional: yarn, hole punch, hole reinforcements, whatever else you want

The minicomic

You can’t print minicomics if you don’t have a minicomic drawn. Think carefully about how many pages you have, and how it translates to a printed book. Our minicomics ended up being 12 pages, plus a front and back cover. Each book used 3 pieces of paper (not including the cardstock cover), and each piece of paper essentially contained 4 pages. We recommend keeping your page numbers divisible by 4 so that you don’t have to run off blank pages.

Our comics were around a quarter page (4.25 by 5.5 inches), including bleed and margins. Since ours use super-crisp vector art, we didn’t have to worry about their resolution, but for best quality please consider drawing your comics at 300dpi or more.

Most printers cut off a bit around the edge – ours chopped off about 1/8 of an inch around all sides, leaving a white margin. We also took into account a little more space beyond that 1/8 inch for potential uneven cutting. While the art went all to way to the edges, we tried to keep the important stuff within this live area.

Also, if you’re using a black and white printer like we did, draw your comic in black and white with maybe one or two gray values. It’s hard to know how color will translate to a black and white printer, and even grays can vary among different printers. Subtle differences in value and contrast can be lost if the colors are very complex.

File Setup

Got your comic drawn yet? Great, now to set up a file you can print. We set ours up to print two comics at once, but if your pages are a square number (say, you have 16 pages) you could probably set up your files to do one at a time. Either way, you’ll get your comics.

We used Inkscape, although you might be using another program and that’s fine. Make a document that’s exactly 8.5 by 11 inches. Here’s where things get tricky – you must figure out which pages will be on what pieces of paper, and on which side. We assembled a blank book, numbered the pages, and took it apart again to help us visualize it.

Once you know where your pages should go, create one folder for each piece of paper in the book. We had “cover group” and 3 additional groups for our total of 12 pages. Within each of these groups were two layers, one for front and one for back. All these layers were labeled by which pages they contained. Group 1, the first paper to go within the cover, had the layers “12/1” (the back of the paper) and “2/11” (the front of the paper).

Printing

Once you set up your file, you can begin printing! Make sure you have enough toner and paper in your printer. Be sure to print some test comics on regular paper, or the cheapest paper you have on hand. A few of ours didn’t come out as intended the first few times – we had to adjust our printer as well as the minicomic files to ensure the pages printed evenly on the page and lined up as they should. Every printer may be different.

We printed the pages on regular paper and the covers on cardstock, which was a relatively easy way to make the books look and feel more like real books. Pay close attention to which way the paper went in so you can flip it over correctly to print on the other side. Marking your paper on the very edge can help you remember how it went in the first time so you can reverse it correctly to print the other side.

Keep an eye on the print quality as you go – if you’re making a large amount of comics, your toner cartridge may run low and compromise the quality of your comics.

Cutting

Once you’ve finished printing, you’ll have some stacks of paper that you can chop down to book size. This is where a paper cutter comes in handy, but if you’re only doing a few and trust yourself to cut straight, some sharp scissors can work.

Trim the printing margins off your pages, and try to keep them as even as you can. Then cut through the middle of the paper to separate the top and bottom of the sheet. You may want to trim some extra off these to keep the margins even.

Separate the papers by page as you go, so you can keep track of them. Once you’re done, you’ll have a bunch of half-sheets of paper. Congrats! But these aren’t comics just yet.

Finishing your comics

This part is really boring, and we recommend doing it while watching movies or something. Grab your papers and start folding and collating. Try to fold as evenly as you can.

Once you have enough papers folded, assemble your comics in page order and begin stapling. We recommend positioning the stapler head over the outer spine of the book, so the “smooth” part of the staple is on the outside of the book while the folded ends of the staple are on the inside. We stapled each book twice along the spine.

The best part is making your comics unique. For our Bottle World comics, we wanted to promote Bottle World: Explore. Thus, the back cover includes an “adventurous spirit” that can be cut out to make a pendant.

Making people find their own string and punch their own holes is no fun. We punched holes in the back covers where a string could look through the spirit. We learned during Radcon that the small loop is prone to breaking, so in our last batch we’ve added a hole reinforcement to hopefully prevent tearing.

In addition to the hole, we also tied some yarn in a bow around the comic. The yarn served three purposes: it provided some string for the spirit, held the comic closed, and looked fancy.

Think of fun things you can do with your minicomics to make them really stand out, or reinforce the story. The possibilities are endless!

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